Edinburgh Rugby coach Alan Solomons insists there is no risk of his men underestimating the challenge posed by basement side Zebre when the teams clash on Guinness PRO12 duty at Murrayfield tonight (kick off 7.35pm).
The Capital players go into the game in buoyant mood after last week’s outstanding performance in the European Challenge Cup semi-fnals and with the prospect of next weekend’s final showdown with Gloucester looming large. Moreover, their opponents tonight boast only one win away from home since entering the competition three seasons ago.
However, Zebre pushed Edinburgh all the way in the corresponding fixture last season before going down 25-23. And, they proved that Solomons is right to be wary of their potential when they chalked up an 18-10 victory – one of only three successes this season – over Edinburgh at Stadio Lanfranchi in November.
Solomons has made only one enforced change from the team that started against Dragons last week. He has called up Tom Brown to fill the full back berth in place of Jack Cuthbert, who suffered a groin injury last weekend. He is adamant that his players will be fully focused on the task of securing a win that is vital if Edinburgh are to clinch the league position that will cement a berth in the European Champions Cup next season.
“We stressed on Monday that the weekend is forgotten and all we are concerned about is Zebre. The focus in that regard has been good – the players have taken that on board,” said Solomons before dismissing any suggestion that a win tomorrow night should be straightforward. “That’s the wrong approach to take. They’ve got quite a few guys who have spent time with the Italian national squad. They are fighting with Treviso because whoever comes ahead goes automatically into the Champions’ Cup. We know there is motivation there – they have something to play for. We have the attitude that we don’t underestimate anybody.”
The coach is confident that the fitness of his players means there is no need to rest key individuals as the season enters the home straight.
“I am very happy with the way we are in terms of our conditioning. In terms of recovery as well, even although we have a number of players out, we have better strength in depth. Our recovery is important at this stage of the season,” said Solomons.
He expects to see Cornell Du Preez continue his return to competitive action with an extended run out, the aim being to give the flanker around 30 minutes of game time. In the meantime, Stuart McInally will continue in the back row.
The overriding objective for the Capital men tonight will be to secure the victory that will keep the BT Murrayfield-based outfit in contention for a top-six finish. Only when that outcome is secured will Solomons expect his players to chase the bonus point that could prove crucial in the tussle with Scarlets and Connacht for sixth spot – both rivals currently have a single point advantage over Edinburgh.
“I think the first thing with these games is that we’ve got to perform well enough to win the game and then take it from there. It’s always an error to think about other things. It’s disrespectful to your opponents as well,” said Solomons.
He acknowledged the potential of youngsters Magnus Bradbury – the star performer for Boroughmuir in last weekend’s BT Cup victory – and Jamie Ritchie, who will play for Heriot’s in tomorrow’s BT Premiership grand final. Both were named yesterday in the squad for the World Rugby Under-20 Championships in Italy in June. However, Solomons believes they are not yet ready for PRO12 rugby.
“Magnus and Jamie are going to go all the way and will play for Scotland I think,” he said. “They will get an opportunity during that World Cup. It’s for them to take that opportunity and I’m sure that they will.”